Devang Desai is as much a Miami local as one could be. Although born 8,000 miles away in Nairobi, Kenya, he attended Miami public schools from an early age and earned two degrees from the University of Miami – one in political science and the other a J.D. And he has cemented a lasting connection to the law school by becoming president of its Law Alumni Association.
"First and foremost, my goal is to increase awareness of the L.A.A. and encourage law graduates to support the mission of the law school," Desai, a partner with Gaebe, Mullen, Antonelli & DiMatteo, the Coral Gables litigation practice, said in a recent interview with The Law Insider. "We want to explore ways to increase engagement for our younger alumni, in particular. Part of that will be to support our current students and create mentor opportunities between alumni and students."
Desai's is an oft-told immigrant story – parents who endure hardships for a better life for their children, and move across of the world to do so. Desai arrived here as a 6-year-old, speaking gujarati. His mother, Pramila, who neither spoke English nor drove, pulled young Devang and his little brother, Ketan, back and forth to school in a little red wagon, a six-mile round trip. She would ultimately learn to drive and speak English and build a career in hospice care while his father, Bhalchandra, traveled for his job in the aviation industry.
Desai's parents instilled in their sons the importance of education, and of making the most of every opportunity.
"After I finished my undergraduate degree and law school at UM, I wanted to honor the sacrifices of my parents in a way that will live on," he said. "As a young alumnus, I established an endowed scholarship in their names to commemorate the high value they put on education. They came to this country to provide a better life for me and my brother and to provide us with a great education."
Prior to becoming an attorney, he served as Interim Ombudsperson and Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs at UM.
Desai, 36, has been a legal officer for student discipline at UM since 2003. He serves on the university's Alumni Association Board as director and the law school's Alumni Board as president. He is active with his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, and serves as its Regional President for Florida.
Desai was named a Rising Star by the Florida Super Lawyers in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. He is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in the Boy Scouts of America and serves on the executive board of the South Florida Council of the Boy Scouts.
Desai has a message to his fellow alumni: "Be yourself. Have fun. Don't take life too seriously. Always find time to give back. It is in those moments that you do that you will find out many more things that make you happy. You will get so much more out of giving than receiving."